Transcript: Ghosts of Afghanistan | Oct 08, 2021

ANNOUNCER: You're listening
to a TVO podcast.

COLIN: Welcome to OnDocs,
a podcast about documentaries
and the stories they tell.
I'm Colin Ellis.
NAM: I'm Nam Kiwanuka.
So, Colin, it's been a while.
COLIN:
I know, where have you been?
NAM: Well, you know, I'm going
to steal someone's tweet,
because these are not my words.
I was getting ready
for a hot girl summer,
but instead I have
a fatigued old lady fall,
and those are the words
from Karen K Ho on Twitter.
That's where I am.
How are you?
COLIN: Fatigued old lady fall.
I'll have to steal that.
NAM: (Laughing)
COLIN: You know, I've had
a pretty good year, actually.
It's nice to be in the office,
which is where
I'm recording from.
NAM: Very nice.
COLIN:
That's a bit of a change.
My cats aren't here to
bother me, so I like that.
NAM: To take over.
To challenge you for your role.
Um, what documentary are
we talking about today?
COLIN: Well, today,
we're going to be looking at
the TVO original documentary
Ghosts of Afghanistan,
which explores the lives of
Afghans caught in the crossfire
between the west
and the Taliban.

GRAEME SMITH:
I'm heartbroken about the way
things went in Afghanistan.
(Plane passing by loudly)
Powerful armies invaded
this country with slogans
about peace, democracy,
women's rights.
(Baby crying)
It was a disaster.
COLIN:
Now, the war in Afghanistan,
when it started, I think,
was seen at this noble effort,
where the west would be,
you know, taking out terrorists
and the Taliban,
liberating women and girls,
bringing freedom and democracy,
but it sadly turned into
this $2.3 trillion travesty
that, you know,
led to the deaths of over
170,000 people.
You know, we're talking
Afghan civilians,
aid workers, journalists,
soldiers, police.
Nam, you know,
when the war started in 2001,
what do you kind of
remember about the tone of
how the war started back then?
NAM: You know,
to hear all those numbers
of all those people that died,
it's just really heartbreaking.
Um, back in 2001,
when the war started,
I remember there was
a split among some,
but it's been interesting to
see how history has been shaped
as if everyone was
on board with the war.
I remember there were protests
here in Toronto, in the States,
all over Europe, and there was
a mass protest in the UK,
and just to go back to
something that you just said,
that it was a war that
some saw as being noble, um,
but I think it's really
important to remember that
there was a lot of dissenting
voices back then as well.
This documentary also speaks to
the importance of having voices
on the ground. In journalism
we've seen foreign bureaus
shut down because of budgets,
but they play a vital role in
getting a complete picture.
As we see in the film,
what Graham was reporting from
the ground contradicted
the message that was put out
through press releases
from different governments,
that everything was going
the way it was supposed to go,
that the Taliban
was under control.
It's also important for us
to acknowledge that there
isn't one narrative,
and for those of us here,
thousands of miles away,
in continents away
from what's happening,
we really need to listen
more to what's being said
by those on the front lines,
like Graeme.
COLIN:
The Graeme you're referring
to is of course Graeme Smith
who is a former
Globe and Mail correspondent.
He wrote about
the war in Afghanistan.
He's the narrator of the film,
he's in the film,
and I actually spoke
to the film's director,
Julian Sher, and we talked a bit
about some of the seldom-heard
perspectives of
the war in Afghanistan,
mainly from urban
and rural Afghans.
Stay with us.

Julian Sher,
welcome to the podcast.
JULIAN: Oh, it's, uh,
it's great to be here.
It's a difficult topic,
but an important topic,
what's going on in
Afghanistan right now.
COLIN: Absolutely.
Well, let's dive into it,
and I know it's been a few,
almost two months I think since
the Taliban came back to power,
and I was just wondering kind of
what your reaction was
to seeing that happen.
JULIAN:
Well, I think it's a mixture of
sadness, grief, shock,
horror, anger,
but also not surprise,
because, uh, I've been to
Afghanistan three times
back at the height of the--
of the surge of Canadian troops
in 2008 and 2009,
when the generals were
boasting and assuring us
that the war was going well,
and to my eyes and the eyes
of many other journalists
it was not, and then when
I returned with Graeme Smith
for this documentary for TVO,
um, it was obvious to us,
and it was in many ways
the whole point of
the documentary, that, uh,
what started off
as the good war,
had turned into a bad war,
and that the Taliban
were winning,
that they had amazing
strength on the ground,
that the issues were much more
nuanced than we had thought.
Um, uh,
that the lines of good and evil
were not as clear as some
of us would have imagined,
and in many ways
that's the whole point of
Ghosts of Afghanistan.
So, I hope, you know,
today on the podcast,
we could get into
some of those--
some of those issues, but the--
You know, the focus in the last
couple of months understandably
have been on the exit
from Afghanistan,
how ugly it was
and chaotic and tragic,
when in many ways we should
be looking at the entry.
How did we get into this war,
and what happened
in the 20 years,
and that's what
Ghosts of
Afghanistan
tries to look at.
COLIN: Yeah, there's a lot in
that answer I want to unpack.
I think, you said
you weren't surprised,
and I think a few people
in the film including
Rahmatullah Amiri,
who's I think
a political analyst,
you know,
he also was not surprised,
but it seemed like it caught,
I guess,
the United States
political establishment,
and, you know,
certain media commentators,
it seemed like it
caught them by surprise.
So, I'm just wondering why there
seems to be that disconnect.
JULIAN: Well, I think the speed
at which the Taliban took over
and the collapse
of the government forces
and our, you know,
supposed allies,
I think that shocked everyone.
I think there was a sense,
as there were these difficult
peace talks between the Taliban
and the Afghan government
that there was a chance for some
kind of strained compromise,
where the Taliban would be
given some seats in power.
You know, just to recall,
Taliban were thrown out of power
in 2001,
after the American invasion,
but they-- they--
they managed to regain
strength to the point where
the Americans are
forced to negotiate with them,
and the Americans
signed basically
a peace withdrawal agreement,
but then the Taliban were
supposed to sit down
and talk with
the Afghan government,
and I think there was, uh,
and people in our movie
expressed the hope and fear,
what would these
negotiations would lead to.
There'd be some kind of
compromised government
or coalition government,
but I think what did surprise
people is the complete collapse
of the government forces,
how much of a Potemkin village,
how much of an empty
shell this government,
which had received billions
and billions of dollars of aid
from Canada
and the rest of
the western alliance.
For me, you know,
the two things that really--
Well, I think the tragedy
and seeing the desperation of
people in Afghanistan,
especially in the cities,
and their worries and fears,
was one thing,
but the two things that
really struck me is it showed
how we believed our own lies,
we believed out own illusions,
that the people in power,
whether it was Ottawa or London
or-- or-- or Washington,
believed their own illusions
about how strong
our allies were,
how good the training was
where all this money was going,
and all these-- these equipment.
I mean, think about it,
the Taliban didn't have
a single plane,
they didn't have, like--
You know, you're talking
about a 20-year war in which
one side had no control
of the air, right?
COLIN: Yeah.
JULIAN: It was, you know,
millions of dollars.
And so, people believed,
I think, their own myth.
The second thing
I think that struck me is,
and a few people
might remember this,
but when people close
their eyes right now
and they think of Afghanistan
and the Taliban taking over,
what do they think of?
They think of that
chaos at the airport,
and those scenes of people
hanging on to the planes,
but what people might remember
is there was this horrible
suicide attack by, uh, ISIS,
and shortly after that,
the Americans launched
a drone missile attack,
which they said was
a righteous strike
that had struck ISIS terrorists.
This was the last military
effort by the Americans
in their sad 20-year
war in Afghanistan,
the last thing they did,
and we now know that it was
10 innocent people
including several children,
that the man they targeted
was in fact working for an NGO,
had nothing to
do with terrorism,
and they destroyed
his car and his family.
So, that's what people,
I think, have to remember about
the exit of Afghanistan,
that it's so typical that that's
the last act of the Americans,
because there were so many
similar acts like that
that enraged the population.
COLIN:
You mentioned earlier that,
you know, this--
the war in Afghanistan,
it was, I guess,
considered a good war,
a noble war,
obviously it was coming
after the attacks on 9/11
and Al-Qaeda being harboured by
the Taliban and Afghanistan,
but it kind of went into
this more, I guess,
horrible direction, like,
this terrible direction,
and I just, like, wonder,
you know, do you think that
the intentions, I guess,
of the US and its allies
to remove Al-Qaeda,
to topple the Taliban,
to bring human rights
and democracy to Afghanistan,
do you think those aims were,
I guess, noble, as they would,
I guess, frame it?
JULIAN: I think you
have to separate those.
Those are two different goals.
To take on Al-Qaeda
and-- and-- and the--
and Osama Bin Laden,
who the Taliban were harbouring,
is one thing.
That's a military tactic.
That's a-- that's a very
specific, limited goal.
To then, quote,
"bring human rights, democracy,
freedom, and rights to women,"
that's a whole other
separate issue, right?
And I think you have
to separate the two.
What, you know, what, you know--
Ghosts of Afghanistan
starts,
Graeme Smith, one of Canada's
foremost war correspondents,
um, has covered
Afghanistan for many years,
and bought into the same dreams
and hopes that we all did.
Exactly, you were noble.
Graeme uses that in the movie
when he goes to Afghanistan
shortly after the war starts.
He saw it as a noble cause.
We were fighting the dark forces
that brought us 9/11.
GRAEME: Now, the foreign
troops are withdrawing,
whatever they leave behind,
so far, it's not peace.
JULIAN:
And after the Taliban
are removed
and the hunt for
Al-Qaeda continues,
you then add on this good,
you know, like,
yes, we get rid of the bad guys,
but now there's
going to be elections,
women are going
to go to schools,
um, democracy, human rights,
and we all felt
wonderful about that,
and, uh,
Graeme goes through a journey,
and that's why I decided
to do the documentary.
Gala Film Productions
out of Montreal, um,
wants to do a documentary
inspired by Graeme's work,
and Graeme and I know
each other from our work
together in Afghanistan,
and when Graeme and I
first talk and he says,
"I want to go
back to Afghanistan,
and I want to see what
went wrong with our dreams,
I want to find out what
happened to the people in--
that I met, who died,
who survived."
And I said, "Graeme,
it's the
Ghosts of Afghanistan,
let's go back and do it."
And, so, in tracking--
He also thought it was noble,
as so many of us did,
and then he began to realize
that there was a dark side.
He began to realize
that our allies
were not as good
as we had thought,
that some of our actions were
creating the same kinds of
human rights abuses that we were
supposed to be fighting against.
That there was torture
going on in our name,
civilians were being
killed in our name.
So, I think he began to
realize that what started
as a noble war,
there was a dark side
that we were ignoring,
and it was
eating away at the very
guts of what we were doing,
and that ended up
turning a noble war into,
in the end what ended up
being a very ugly war.
You know, there's a scene
in the movie where we go to
an orphanage where kids have
been killed by the Taliban
or kids' families have
been killed by the Taliban,
but also by the western forces
and the Afghan government,
and the woman running
the daycare says,
"The kids now no longer
know who are the good guys
and who are the bad guys."
COLIN: Hm.
JULIAN: And I think that's
a sad but important lesson.
GRAEME: Do you know who
fired against your family?
MAN:
Uh, no.
The war was between
the government and Taliban,
and both of them,
I don't know who
fired on my family.
COLIN: I think, you know,
the darkness, the dark side of,
I guess, what we--
what I guess us and, I guess,
what our Afghan allies
did in Afghanistan
I think can be seen
in I think Sarposa Prison.
Could you just talk a bit
about what went on there
and, I guess,
our own roll in that?
JULIAN: Yeah, you know, when
you're making a documentary,
I mean, you could do
a news documentary
where you kind of just,
you know,
expose a bunch of facts
and take people
through the facts,
and we decided with
Ghosts of Afghanistan
that we didn't want
this to be a classic
voice of God documentary where
it would be very important
and you'd learn a lot of facts
and possibly a bit boring.
So, you know, but we decided
there would be no old white man,
there would be
no generals or politicians
from Ottawa
or Washington or London,
even though I think
there's a place for these men,
and they're almost all men,
to be held to account
for what went wrong.
That we would let
the Afghan people speak,
but the only of course
big exception is that Graeme,
as a western journalist,
we would make a movie based
on his story and his emotions,
and Sarposa Prison
was a key turning point,
because it's where Graeme, uh,
as a journalist for
the Globe and Mail
investigates allegations
of prisoners that
Canadian forces handed over
to our allies in Afghanistan
were being brutally tortured in
unbelievably tragic
and horrific ways,
and when Graeme exposes that,
in the Globe and Mail,
he's denounced by the government
of Stephen Harper.
It's a huge debate
in Parliament,
and the government denies
there's any problem,
and Graeme will
continue to prove
that there was serious abuses.
There will eventually be
a parliamentary hearings,
and Graeme's investigation
does two things.
It begins to change Canada
and Canadians' views of our war.
It was the first time
I think Canadians who were
following the news
began to realize,
"Well, wait a minute,
if we're fighting for
human rights and democracy,
how come our allies are
engaging in the same torture
that we're supposed
to be fighting against?"
But also it was a personal
turning point for Graeme,
that he began to realize
that the cause maybe wasn't
as glorious as we thought.
GRAEME:
This shook me because
it wasn't an accident of war.
It was deliberate.
It was a part of
the design of the war.
On a daily basis,
prisoners transferred from
Canadian custody
into cruel hands.
JULIAN: And there was
an important twist to that.
Graeme's main source
in this story,
a tremendous brave
human rights investigator called
Ansari (Unclear), um, who is
quoted in Graeme's articles,
shortly after
Graeme's stories appears,
he will disappear,
and will eventually we will
find out that he was kidnapped
and beheaded by the Taliban.
And, so, in our movie,
Graeme goes,
we track down the family,
and Graeme is struck with grief
and, frankly, a fair amount of
guilt that Graeme's journalism
contribute to this man's death,
and you see what
happens in the movie
and how the family reacts,
but Graeme reflects
on that in our movie,
because he begins to realize
there were consequences,
even to our good intentions.
Graeme had a good intention.
He wanted to expose the--
the torture and abuses that
were going on in Canada's name,
but those good intentions also
had consequences, and I think
that's an important lesson
we need to grasp.
COLIN: Yeah, I think, you know,
we heard a lot about, you know,
uh, not just
human rights workers,
but also translators
and other Afghans who were
there to kind of assist
with the military,
but also with journalists
and protecting them,
and, I guess,
you know, he feels,
certainly I think Graeme,
you can see in the film
that he certainly feels, uh,
some, I guess, guilt about that,
but do you get the sense that
other journalists as well,
or other, um, people who were--
other westerners, I guess,
who were involved in the war,
uh, feel, I guess, uh,
conflicted about
putting Afghans at risk to,
I guess, aid in their efforts.
JULIAN: Oh, it's a huge dilemma.
Um, uh...
You know, for us it's a story,
it's a documentary,
it's a movie, but people's
lives are affected by this.
So, it means when you
have to take precautions.
Obviously we were under
huge security risk as-- as--
as westerners
filming in Afghanistan.
We had the 20-minute rule,
where we would never film
outside for longer
than 20 minutes
for film-- for fear of
being kidnapped or attacked,
and the whole time
we were there,
we never saw a single other
westerner in the streets.
That's how dangerous it was,
but that also meant
we couldn't walk.
The normal things you
do in a documentary.
Let's have a scene with Graeme
walking and talking
with somebody.
Well, you couldn't do that,
because it would not only expose
Graeme and our film crew
and me to danger,
it would expose that person,
'cause you'd be flagging,
you'd be putting
a target on the back
of that person and saying,
"Look, this person is
speaking to western media.
What are they saying?"
In fact, at one point,
there's a scene in the movie
where we go to
Kabul University and interview,
um, some students,
girls and boys,
young women and young men
in a photography class,
and they're talking
about their hopes and dreams,
and it's an important scene,
because the women there,
especially one woman
named Mariam, who we called
the Girl With the Orange Socks,
because all she wants to do
is wear orange socks
and it gets her into trouble
in a very traditional country.
So, we're filming,
we spend about, you know,
a good half day on the campus,
but at one point,
while we're filming,
a more conservative
religious student comes up
and starts arguing with
the other students and us
saying we're spreading
malicious lies
and it just showed
the tension even there,
much less in Kandahar.
When we were in Kandahar,
a strong base for the Taliban,
everybody we met
we had to meet secretly
in courtyards
or in somebody's house.
So, there were huge risks,
and we asked people what to do,
and we changed
some of the writing
or some of the filming we did
as production continued
in order to protect the--
to protect the people,
and to your point about
the guilt that journalists feel,
as you may know,
journalists from ourselves
and the people involved in
this Gala Film production,
with the help of TVO,
the Globe and Mail,
CTV, CBC,
there was a whole network
of journalists involved in
trying to rescue as many
of these colleagues
that worked with us,
and, in fact,
quite a few people who
have worked on the film
managed to escape from
Afghanistan and are now,
thankfully, safe in Canada
or the United States
or elsewhere.
COLIN:
Well, I'm glad to hear that.
I was struck, though,
by the divisions
in Afghan society.
I mean, obviously we saw images
of people trying to escape
from the airport, you know,
escape Taliban rule,
but I think you also talked
to some people, some women even,
who maybe aren't as fearful
about the Taliban's return
or maybe they're--
they look at it maybe
a little differently.
Can you just talk about some
of the divisions in society
and to what extent some
people are actually, uh,
maybe okay with
the Taliban returning to power?
JULIAN:
That's such an excellent point,
and it's one of the main points
that Graeme and I wanted to make
in the movie.
You know, when you--
when you--
I've made many movies
and documentaries in my career,
but what you always
want to do if you can
is to surprise people.
You want to take them
on a journey,
and, frankly,
I'm interested in dark journeys.
So, I'm-- the kind of
documentaries I do
and the books I have written,
I want to show
the dark side of society
so that you
hold a mirror to us,
and so you begin to question
some of your own beliefs
and your own myths
and your own illusions.
So, I think it is the task of
a filmmaker in documentaries
to make people
a bit uncomfortable,
but to also make them laugh
and smile and make them reflect
on some of their
long-held views.
So, Graeme was very insistent,
given his long track record in
Afghanistan that, yes,
we would show the girls,
like the young women
at Kabul University
who wanted to wear orange socks,
we would show the young women
in cafes with their boyfriends,
we interview one of
the leading feminist leaders
who organizes
a campaign called My Red Line,
because that is the main story
that comes out of Afghanistan,
women and women's rights,
and it's so important.
So, we have all of that,
but we took great pains to say,
"Yes, that's all true,
but that's urban women,
urban middle class women
in a handful of cities,
and the minute you go into
more conservative rural areas,
it's quite a different picture,"
and that's the surprise
we wanted to bring,
and one of,
I think my favourite scenes,
and I've been to screenings--
we had a screening at
the Berlin Human Rights
Festival recently
and I've talked to other
people who've seen the movie,
one of people's surprising,
jaw-dropping scenes,
we call it
the Birka Tea Party scene.
There's a scene about halfway
through the movie where,
after meeting with
various feminist leaders,
Graeme says,
"Well, I wanted to get a sense
of what it was like
in the countryside,"
and we're not talking--
That's where the vast majority
of Afghan women and men live,
and we meet a doctor who's
working at a health clinic for
many, many years in Kandahar,
and she arranges for about
a half dozen women in
birkas to sit down,
not only with a man,
but with a foreign man,
during a tea party,
and Graeme talks with them,
and you hear from these women
a quite surprising view,
where they are young and lively
and laughing and reflective,
and they tell us how
what they want
is the war to end.
One of them says,
"Freedom isn't about whether
you're wearing jeans or a birka,
it's about freedom,
economic equality and freedom
for schools and-- and--
and freedom to live,
and their family that are being
killed by the bombs,
that they wanted the war to end,
and when we ask them about
the Taliban, they say,
"Look, we have our traditions,
we're not afraid of the Taliban.
We'll live the way
we've always lived,"
and yet there's also this
great scene where one of them,
you know, points to her head,
and she says,
"But I have to admit,
this birka gives me
such a headache,"
and they all start laughing.
COLIN: (Laughing)
JULIAN:
And, so, it brings it down.
You know, the birka
became a very political,
you know, time bomb almost,
and it brings it down
to a very human level,
but going back to
the point that you raised,
what it showed is that
those women clad in a birka,
who were, by the way, they were
wearing birkas long before
the Taliban were there,
and they'll wear birkas
long after the Taliban leave,
if the Taliban leave,
you know, they were worlds apart
from these young women dressed
in western clothing wearing
orange socks at Kabul University
and they both realized
they were worlds apart,
but they kind of in their
own way respected each other.
They said,
"They have their ways,
we have our ways,"
you know,
that's what, you know--
the problem of course
is the Taliban
and the western forces
and the government made it
very political
and made it military,
but it meant that the people
I think were convinced
they could figure out
a way to make it work,
but this is a much more
divided society than we thought,
than we imagined, and-- and--
and to see the Taliban
as, like, Martians,
as people who came from some
foreign, you know-- these were--
The Taliban were not
foreign invaders, right?
They are the sons and brothers
and fathers of people
living in Afghanistan.
I mean, there are foreigners,
and we won't get into
Pakistan's role in all of that,
but the point is is that
this is a very rooted,
deeply divided war,
and people on both sides had
really, really strong feelings,
and that's what we try
to show in the movie.
COLIN: I have to ask you about
just how it is as a filmmaker
for you to be working
on something for so long.
You know, I've talked to
many documentary filmmakers,
sometimes they spend years
working on a doc, documentary,
and I guess you,
you know, you finish the doc,
you think you have your ending,
and then events conspire to
change that ending.
I think, if I'm not mistaken,
this film was actually
ready to be broadcast,
and then the Taliban swept
to power and you had to actually
um, go back into
the editing room.
So, I'm just wondering,
you know, like,
did you have a different
ending in mind for this film?
JULIAN:
Yeah, reality, eh?
Don't you hate when reality--
COLIN: (Chuckling)
It sucks.
JULIAN: --blows up your
plans for a documentary?
Well, I must say, I must say,
I was very proud of
the work we did
because, in the end, uh,
not because we're
geniuses or anything,
but just the way
we had planned it
and the story we told,
we actually did
not have to change anything,
except some narration
at the top and at the end,
but the movie always
was pretty much literally
frame-for-frame what people
see now, right?
The Graeme's journey
and we meet various people,
the national security advisor
for the president
and a school director
who's using Canadian money to
build a school for girls,
and the feminists
we talked about,
and the Birka Tea Party,
and at the end of the movie,
towards we end
we started saying,
"Okay, here's all the divisions,
there are these peace talks,
nobody knows how
it's going to turn out,
but there's a lot
of fear and loathing,
but it's a very divided country,
and the last scene we always had
were these young girls in
the school that was originally
funded with Canadian money,
who take off their birkas
when they come into
this private school,
and learn English and computers,
but the last scene is
them putting on the birkas
to go back out into
the streets of Kandahar.
And that was always
the last scene.
The words over that
last scene was kind of
peace talks are going on,
but who knows
what's going to happen
in the streets of Afghanistan?
For now the girls
put on their birkas
and go on to
an uncertain future.
That's what the movie was like,
and what we were proud of is
that when the Taliban
started advancing, you know,
we talked with TVO, and we said,
"Look, this is not
a news documentary.
We're not going to
keep updating it,
but we have to take into
account these dramatic events,"
and by the time the Taliban
had swept into Kabul,
all we had to do was
change some of the narration,
because we had already
said the Taliban were
gaining strength, you quoted
one of the people earlier,
you know, who talks
about that in our movie.
So, we just added a line saying,
"The Taliban in the end didn't
need the peace talks,
they swept to power,"
and we kept that last scene of
the girls putting on the birka,
and all we changed was the fact
is that now they live under
Taliban rule, and they,
like everybody else,
face an uncertain future.
GRAEME: Now, very little
remains of the foreigners'
plans for Afghanistan
and the dreams we inspired,
except for painted slogans
on fortified walls.
Soon, even those will disappear.
COLIN: I guess,
are you hopeful for Afghanistan?
JULIAN: Absolutely, you know,
um, I've travelled, you know,
I've done film documentaries in
Somalia and in Bagdad
and in all kinds of
dangerous or sad situations,
but Afghanistan
tugs at you in a way
that few other places do,
and I think what we
tried to show in the movie
is the beauty of the country.
I mean,
it's stunningly beautiful.
Yes, it's very poor,
but, you know, you just see
the beauty-- the beauty
in its harshness, right?
The mountains
and the snow and the rivers.
Um, and the--
but the people, right?
And you see in
the scenes you meet, you know,
the kids playing cricket,
and the people kite flying,
and, you know,
the women in birkas laughing
and joking at a tea party,
and these young women
dreaming of
becoming photographers,
and we also meet the Taliban,
you know,
and they're fascinating
in their own way,
and, you know,
whether you like it or not,
some, especially the younger
members of the Taliban,
have their dreams.
So, look, right now
it's hard not to be depressed
'cause you see both the dangers
of some of our friends
and colleagues that
were trying to get out, um,
you see some of the abuses
that are starting again,
and some of the quite scary
things that the Taliban are
either doing
or announcing or threatening,
but, um, I think there is hope
because of the strength that--
of the people we
meet in the documentary,
and people will see when they--
when they watch the documentary.
You realize the courage
and the strength
and determination.
But I think you
also realize that
this is for them to decide,
right?
This is for the people
of Afghanistan to decide
amongst themselves,
and we can't have the arrogance
to think that we know better,
and we can go in and fix things
in a way that we think is right,
but I also think,
and this is why I think
Ghosts of Afghanistan
is
so important is that, you know,
especially look at Canadians,
when did we care
more about Afghanistan?
In the initial
aftermath of 9/11?
And then when Canadian
men and women were dying
and fighting as soldiers then,
but then once Canada left,
it largely disappeared, right?
Off the pages of our newspapers
and in the consciousness of
most Canadians until
the evacuation at the airport,
it was briefly in the news,
and now it's faded again,
and I think what we hope with
Ghosts of Afghanistan,
you know,
TVO has put it up on YouTube
so anybody could watch it,
is that we don't forget
to abandon Afghanistan, right?
In many ways this
is a mess we created.
They have their own problems,
but we made it worse.
So, we have a responsibility.
So, I'm hopeful,
but I'm worried
that we'll ignore
and forget about
the people of Afghanistan,
and I hope that the movie
will remind people about
why it's important not to forget
what we did
and what the hopes and dreams
of the people of
Afghanistan are.
COLIN:
Well said, Julian.
Thank you so much for
joining me today on OnDocs.
JULIAN:
Thank you. It's been a pleasure
to talk to you about this
and I hope this helps, uh,
do what any good
documentary should do,
is just help people reflect
and have some deep thoughts,
uh, and maybe some inspiration.
Stay safe.
COLIN:
Thank you. Well said.
And that's the podcast.
NAM:
Ghosts of Afghanistan
is
streaming right now on TVO.org
and on TVO's YouTube channel.
COLIN: We've got a special bonus
episode for you this week
that's out right now.
I spoke with Frishta Bastan,
an Afghan-Canadian
community organizer and poet.
We talk about what growing up in
Canada was like for her during
the war in Afghanistan,
the beauty of Afghan culture,
and pushing back against
negative stereotypes.
NAM: While you're here,
why not give us a rating on
Apple Podcasts
and tell a friend about us?
It helps new listeners
to find the show.
COLIN: Thanks to producer
and editor Matthew O'Mara,
senior producer Katie O'Connor,
production support coordinators
Nikki Ashworth
and Jonathan Halliwell,
and executive producer
Laurie Few.
NAM: We'll catch you
at the next screening.

Watch: Ghosts of Afghanistan